The Alachua County vaccination rate against COVID-19 has fallen short of a goal that instigated a gift card incentive program two months ago.
In August, the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) allocated funds from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act to purchase $25 gift cards to distribute to citizens per COVID-19 vaccine shot.
At the time, the vaccine rate in Alachua County was 66 percent and the delta variant had caused a surge in COVID-19 cases. The BOCC wanted to increase the number of recipients by 45,000 which would have brought the vaccination rate up to 81 percent.
But as of Tuesday, Paul Myers, the Alachua County Health Department administrator, reported that the county’s COVID-19 vaccination rate jumped just three points to 69 percent as the gift card incentive deadline approaches Sunday.
Myers noted a slowdown in the administration of vaccines at the Oct. 12th BOCC meeting.
“We’re kind of stuck here at 69 percent,” Myers told the commission. “We still have a lot of people in Alachua County who are eligible.”
Myers said he thinks that the gift cards did cause more people to receive the vaccine than would have on their own.
“From Sept. 1 through today, the Alachua County Health Department has distributed approximately 2,000 gift cards to those who we vaccinated,” he reported. “While the rate of vaccinations decreased during this time period, the amount of the decrease may have been minimized by the vaccine incentive. We do know that many segments of the population were very appreciative of the gift card initiative.”
In a phone interview Myers reported “a renewed sense of interest in obtaining a vaccine now that additional doses and boosters have been approved. We are seeing an increase in our immunization efforts.”
According to Tommy Crosby, assistant county manager in budget and fiscal services, the county initially purchased 15,000 cards at $25 each for a total of $375,000.
In a report he sent to the BOCC on Tuesday, Crosby itemized the 13,288 cards distributed as 9,216 from CVS, 449 from Winn Dixie, 435 from Hitchcock’s, 923 from Wise Pharmacies, 100 from West End & Abel and 2,165 from the health department and UF.
Crosby reported that the county had about 2,000 cards left as of Sunday and they will be available for anyone receiving a vaccine or booster shot through Oct. 31 at participating locations.
“The excess gift cards will be kept secure by the clerk’s office until we dispose or issue them for other board adopted programs,” Crosby said.
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